Typically, one of the hallmarks of a romantic getaway is the time spent together. The meals you share, the places you see, the experiences you have. However, just as important, is the reality—especially for long distance couples—of the every day. When you’re separated by borders or oceans, it’s easy to let time together feel like a vacation. Things like budgets, serious to dos, or boring conversations and plans take a back seat to the fun. Reality, though, should be a mix of both. Our quick trip back to Brisbane was an attempt at just that. Soleil needed to take care of some family business, and I had a few more solo explorations of the city. Time together is important and precious, but time apart is just as valid.
We returned via long distance train on Wednesday morning. I spent a good portion of the trip daydreaming and thinking of different ideas for novels. Trains and showers, it seems, are the ideal places for the writing mind. Soleil departed at an earlier stop, and I stayed on with some of our luggage till the downtown area. Weighed down with two backpacks, a purse, and a cooler bag, I walked to the Meriton Suites Brisbane. Soleil had once again scored a deal on our accommodation, and I was excited to see the similarities and differences between the Brisbane location and Surfers Paradise.
In the meantime, I wandered to the Queen Street Mall. I explored the Australian Target, which is similar-ish to the American version but with a different culture of style. They had a few Halloween decorations in the front, but more Christmas décor in the back. It seems spooky season comes earlier each year at the cost of holiday cheer’s incursion. I was mostly window shopping for the day but bought a selection of beauty masks. I could have spent hours wandering through the stores, but my feet started to hurt so I started back to the hotel.
I was distracted by the Brisbane City Market, a weekly farmer’s market in the heart of downtown, where food trucks and vendors sell their wares. I bought a loaf of banana bread to share with everyone and a delicious passionfruit iced tea. By then, rain had started pattering down and I made quick work of gazing at the fruits, veggies, artisan jewelry, flowers, and candles. It was a cool experience to see a different, less touristy side of the city, and it was one I wish I’d had more time for. Once I made it back to the hotel, I read Lauren Oliver’s Broken Things on my Kindle until Soleil returned with his brother.
Soleil, Lune, and I walked to the South Bank area, and returned to The Plough Inn for their chicken parma special. Apparently, this is an Australian staple, and a ‘must-have’ for my destination. The dish was huge, the fries were perfectly crisp and salty, and the parma (breaded chicken with a slice of ham and a red sauce, similar but different to chicken parmesan) was delicious. I might be won over. After eating, we went to Saccharomyces Bar for trivia night. We named our team the Purple Cheater Eater and ended up placing fourth in a mix of many teams. A lot of the questions were obviously geared toward Australian culture, so I was totally lost, but I had some comeback questions thanks to a varied knowledge base.
After trivia, slightly inebriated on craft beer and the rush of almost winning, we joined the queue for Messina gelato. I chose a strawberry sorbet because I wasn’t quite up to something rich. It didn’t quite live up to Soleil’s promise of ‘best in the world’, but it was a tasty treat after a long day. Lune left for his home, and Soleil and I returned to our hotel. The walk was somehow longer on the way back, my feet were aching, and I was more than a bit wobbly from exhaustion. Eventually, we made it back to our Meriton and I was able to relax.
It’s funny how—just having stayed at another branch of the same chain—we were able to compare the amenities and issues between the Meriton Suites. One had a better kitchen with pots and pans, but no toaster. One had a softer bed. One had a better view. One was better designed. Both were in decent locations for our needs. Either way, we had a place to stay and sleep and be for a couple of nights, and that’s all that mattered.
On Thursday, we took a bus to Lune’s neighborhood. I departed the bus a little earlier for more walks and shopping while Soleil went off for a family meeting. This was a good chance for me to see what the local grocery stores had in stock, the differences between here and the States, and pick up a few things I needed. It’s funny how attached to brands we can be, and I did find myself cataloguing which American ones have made the jump overseas. My dearly beloved Progresso seems to be in short supply.
With a few pastries, an umbrella, and my purchases in tow, I returned to Lune’s home for an overall relaxing day. Soleil, as he often is, was buzzing with news and plans, and we had a good conversation about where we might go from here. We solidified plans for the weekend and watched a YouTube series. Aster made a tasty pesto pasta for dinner, and, not long after, I met Soleil’s mum in person for the first time.
Again, when you’re a long distance couple, the typical milestones of a relationship get mish-mashed out of order. Other than a brief Zoom chat, I hadn’t had much of a chance to get to know Soleil’s mum, but it was nice to meet her in reality, to hear stories, and to have a chance to talk. Sitting around a table with Soleil’s family, it was a little surreal but not in a bad way. It was comfortable. Being a part of a table like that was a new experience for me, and I think I liked it.
Soleil and I went back to our hotel for a chill night of Seinfeld and drinks. Just like in America, we seem to have found a local channel that plays re-runs of those oh-so-popular sitcoms from over twenty years ago. The humor still (mostly) hits. (And I think I’m winning him over on the relative merits of Friends). We set our alarms for the next morning and went to bed.
I woke up early on Friday and snuck down to the Jacuzzi. Since it was a little before 8am, the only other person in the pool area was a woman swimming laps. I stepped into the somehow lukewarm water of the spa after turning the jets on and relaxed all my tense muscles from walking. The longer I sat in the Jacuzzi, the warmer it seemed so maybe there’s a thermodynamic reasoning for why they don’t keep the water as hot as it could be. I tried the sauna, but it wasn’t working. So, after about thirty or so minutes in the spa, I returned to the room so we could get ready for check out and the next leg of our trip.
A few errands, a quick snack, and all our luggage later, we arrived at the train station. We were off on a longer train ride into the mountains of Australia, but that’s another story. I’m excited to say the next chapter includes a winding road, a wedding, and plenty of delicious food. Special occasions like this are made for holidays, and who needs reality when you’re celebrating?
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